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The CFP Board, American College, and "Grandfathering"

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Well, Morris, you (and/or I), seem to have stirred up at least a micro-hornet’s nest with the grandfathering issue on certification. I think your responses largely speak for themselves, but I am a bit puzzled about why you seem taken aback by my working definition of “grandfathering.” Unless you’re claiming to have invented the phrase (which would rank right up there with Al Gore’s invention of the Internet), you’re not really free to define the term any way you wish. For a more authoritative source, I consulted Black’s Law Dictionary, which defines a “grandfather clause” as: “a provision in a law or regulation exempting those already in or a part of the existing system which is being regulated.”

Now, I understand your desire to limit the scope of “grandfathering” to only the CFP Board’s exempting existing CFPs from the comprehensive exam (over 15 years ago, btw), so that action appears more sinister ( believe me, the Board doesn’t need any help with that). But the fact is that grandfathering is a broad and widely accepted practice frequently used by lawmakers, regulators, and professions, alike, including numerous instances by the American College. The bottom line with professional credentials is that we–the public–trusts existing professionals to establish education, knowledge and ethical criteria to ensure the public continues to benefit from professional services in question.

Which brings us to the real matter at hand. I’m guessing it’s no coincidence that you published your diatribe against the Board at the same time that the American College has stepped up it’s “we-have-the-best-financial-planning-designation” to coincide with its current anti-fiduciary standard media campaign. It seems the AC, in it’s continuing efforts to benefit insurance consumers everywere, is taking a firm stance against the proposed fiduciary standards for financial advisors. According to a source who attended one of their media briefings, the AC’s contention is that an unintended consequence of establishing a broad fiduciary standard for advisors would be to reduce consumer choices because many reps and/or other intermediaries would be forced out of the market.

Let’s just consider that for a moment. If everyone who currently gives financial advice to the public were suddenly required to put clients’ interests ahead of their own interests and those of their affiliated institutions, then many of them would have to leave the business??? That doesn’t really say much for the current financial services industry, does it? In fact, that might just be the best argument in favor of a comprehensive fiduciary standard that I’ve heard yet. I didn’t really think it possible, but compared to thinking like that, the CFP Board looks pretty darn good.


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